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Uganda rebel Kony "headed to Sudan-Congo border"
JUBA, Sudan |
JUBA, Sudan (Reuters) - Uganda's fugitive rebel commander Joseph Kony is walking to the Sudan-Congo border to sign a final peace deal this week with the Ugandan government, Western diplomatic sources said on Sunday.
South Sudanese officials who have been mediating stop-start talks to end one of Africa's longest wars have said the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) leader will sign two days ahead of an official ceremony in Juba because he fears arrest.
No one from the Ugandan government could be reached to comment on rebel plans, but it has insisted the elusive Kony, whom no outsiders have seen for months, emerge from hiding in Congo to ink the agreement in person in Juba on April 5.
A diplomatic source at the long-running negotiations in the south Sudanese capital said the LRA boss was expected to sign the document at Ri-Kwangba on the remote border on April 3.
"He is then likely to sneak back into Central African Republic, where he has established a base," the diplomat said.
The final peace deal calls for LRA fighters to disarm within a month. The top representatives of the rebels at the talks said on Sunday that Kony would sign, but the group would not lay down its arms until international arrest warrants were scrapped.
Kony and two of his senior deputies are wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague for multiple war crimes including rape, murder and the abduction of children. Fearing arrest, they have never appeared at the Juba talks.
"Kony will not disarm if the ICC has not dropped those indictments, he's sworn on that," said David Nyekorach Matsanga.
The ICC has said its warrants remain active, but the U.N. Security Council could ask them to be put on hold if there was a real chance for peace.
Two decades of war in northern Uganda have killed tens of thousands, uprooted 2 million more and destabilized neighboring parts of south Sudan and eastern Democratic Republic of Congo.
In a separate incident, south Sudanese Vice-President Riek Machar said an investigation had been launched after a local politician said Ugandan troops using helicopter gunships killed at least 20 people in a March 4 raid into south Sudan.
"Some cattle were taken and also some citizens were taken across the border," Machar told Reuters. He could not confirm the exact death toll or whether helicopters had been used.
Colonel Paul Lokech, the commander of Ugandan forces across the border from where the attack was said to have taken place, denied the killings but said several Sudanese had been arrested.
"They crossed 52 miles into Uganda with hundreds of cattle and armed with G3 rifles. We rounded them up and disarmed them," he told Reuters by telephone.
"Our gunships did not kill anyone. We've released all 41 suspects along with their cattle, but we withheld their arms. We also cautioned all of them not to cross the border illegally."
(Additional reporting by Skye Wheeler; Writing by Daniel Wallis; Editing by Catherine Evans)
(For full Reuters Africa coverage and to have your say on the top issues, visit: africa.reuters.com/)
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